Drugs taking over in Omonia

Two years after its costly and much-debated makeover for the Athens Olympics, Omonia Square in the city center has turned into a gathering place for drug dealers, addicts and other criminals, police sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. Omonia is Athens’s second-largest square but is much busier than Syntagma and police targeted the area as part of their efforts to move street traders, vagrants and drug addicts away from the city center before visitors arrived in Athens. However, Omonia is not such a welcoming place now, officers say. «Late in the evening, when there are not many passers-by, drug addicts appear in the square from the surrounding streets. Sometimes they number up to 600 people,» a police source told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The patrol officer, who did not want to be named, said that most of the addicts are homeless Greeks who have either come to Athens to enroll in a detoxification program or to get away from their families. He said dealers only come into the square to sell heroin and then leave immediately. Shop owners and people running kiosks in the area say they are continuously trying to prevent addicts from stealing things from their businesses. Hoteliers have also lodged complaints about the deterioration of the area. «They are constantly sending us letters to report that the situation in Omonia is driving customers away and damaging their businesses, said Katerina Katsabe-Marneri, a member of the Athens City Council. She said that the municipality and the police do not have the power to move people out of the square, adding that only a directive from a prosecutor could bring this about.